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The Diet Of Parrots – What Do They Eat?

Parrot eating

Parrots are fancy and impressive birds! Most live in tropical places but escaped parrots have also established populations in California, Florida, Texas, and some other places.

How do those parrots survive in urban areas? They must find food, but what do they eat? Do they feed on the same things as the parrots in wild, tropical forests?

See this article to learn all about the diets of parrots!


The Diet Of Parrots

Most parrot species are vegetarians that forage in trees and bushes. Although their diets vary, parrots eat foods like flower buds, fruits, and seeds. Some species also eat some leaves but, for the most part, parrots are highly adapted to eating fruit and seeds.

They use their sharp beaks to bite into fruits, even tropical fruits with thick skin. They can also cut fruit into bite-sized pieces while holding it with one of their feet, or biting directly into fruit hanging from a tree.

Parrots feed on a wide variety of fruits and, in some places, are considered pests because they eat cultivated fruits. In some places, local names for parrots are associated with the fruits they eat. For example, in Costa Rica, I have sees some local people refer to White-crowned Parrots as Guayaberos. This word means, “guava eaters” and indeed, White-crowned Parrots do love guavas!

Many parrots also love to eat figs along with other, little known tropical fruits.

Parrots also eat a wide variety of hard, tropical seeds that they crack open with their beaks. Palm nuts are a favorite of macaws and other large parrot species, while small parrots eat legume seeds, bamboo seeds, and many other small seeds and nuts.


What do baby parrots eat?

Baby parrots eat a lot of the same food as their parents. However, to give them much needed protein, adult parrots also feed their babies some insects.

While mother parrots brood and take care of their babies, her mate forages for her and the nestlings. He finds and eats enough fruit, seeds, flower buds, and a few insects before flying back to a spot anywhere from 30 to 300 feet near the nest.

After his mate comes out to greet him, he feeds her by regurgitating food into her beak, and she quickly returns to the nest to give some of that food to her babies. Instead of placing bits of food into their mouths, mother parrots also give them regurgitated food.

She places her beak over each baby’s open mouth and regurgitates food directly into it. This makes it much easier for baby birds to digest food. Not to mention, baby parrots also lack the strength needed to bite into hard fruit and crack open seeds and nuts.

Once nestling parrots grow enough feathers to keep themselves warm, their mother also forages, and both parents feed the babies at the nest. After the young parents leave the nest, their parents continue to feed them for several weeks.


The Diet of Pet Parrots

Pet parrots should ideally eat the same things that wild birds do. The main problem is obtaining the many types of seeds, fruits, and flower buds that wild parrots eat. Most aren’t cultivated and some might even come from undescribed plant species!

Luckily, we don’t have to give pet parrots those food items. They can eat a wide variety of food including many things we eat.

That includes fruits and vegetables like melon, bananas, pineapple, blueberries, kiwis, cucumbers, radish, coconut, carrots, and green beans. They can also eat almonds, flax, and some other seeds. However, to make sure they get proper nutrition, pet parrots should also eat parrot pellets.

Related: How long do parrots live?

This bird food is designed to give parrots, parakeets, and macaws a healthy diet.

Although a pet parrot might insist on eating some other types of foods, the bird should never eat chocolate, avocados, garlic, cereal, or crackers. Chocolate is toxic for birds (!) and some other foods have too much salt and sugar.

Baby pet parrots also have a special diet. To mimic the regurgitated food that wild baby parrots get, they need to eat ground-up ingredients and nutrients mixed with water. Fortunately, you can buy that mix in pet stores!


The Diets Of Parrots: Some Fun Facts

  • In the wild, small members of the parrot family often feed on berries and other tiny fruits, while larger species can feast on palm nuts, big seeds, and tropical fruits as large as a baseball.
  • When feeding in the wild, one parrot usually watches for predators as others in the flock quietly forage.
  • Parrots are just as messy eaters in the wild as they are in captivity. If you see small pieces of fruit falling to the floor of tropical forest, step back and take a close look overhead. There are probably some parrots up there!
  • Polly might want a cracker but that doesn’t mean crackers are good for her! The salt content in these dry snacks is usually too high for parrots.
  • Since pet parrots fly around much less than wild birds, if you aren’t careful, they can easily become obese.
  • In general, a good parrot diet should be 50% to 75%parrot pellets, 25% to 50% fresh veggies, and only 5% fruit.
  • Although a parrot might want to eat some of your tasty, homemade guacamole, don’t let it! Avocados can cause heart failure in parrots!
  • Introduced parrot species in Florida and California survive by feeding on a variety of exotic trees.


Frequently Asked Questions

What do parrots like to eat the most?

Parrots like to eat seeds and fruit the most. They especially like sunflower seeds and peanuts but these high-fat foods should only be given to then in moderation.

What do parrots eat in the jungle?

In the jungle, parrots eat a wide variety of tropical blossoms, seeds, and fruits.

Do wild parrots eat meat?

No, most wild parrots do not eat meat. The one exception is the Kea of New Zealand. This parrot routinely feeds on carcasses!

What are the favorite foods of pet parrots?

The favorite foods of pet parrots depends on the individual bird in question but most love sunflower seeds and other seeds, bananas, corn, and collard greens.

About the Author

Patrick O'Donnell

Patrick O'Donnell has been focused on all things avian since the age of 7. Since then, he has helped with ornithological field work in the USA and Peru, and has guided many birding tours, especially in Costa Rica. He develops birding apps for BirdingFieldGuides and loves to write about birds, especially in his adopted country of Costa Rica.

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